How to Clean AC Drain Lines

We're still a few weeks away from the official first day of summer, but most Georgia residents have already run their AC at least a few times.

Is your air conditioner ready for the upcoming hot days?

If you've already changed your air filter, cleared leaves, and other yard debris away from the outside unit, and given the coils and fins a good cleaning, you're on point. Don’t forget the drain lines!

Read today’s post for tips on how to clean AC drain lines. You’ll save yourself the aggravation of a cooling system that doesn’t work efficiently when you most need it to keep your home comfortable.

Where Is My AC Drain Line?

If you’ve never cleaned, much less located the AC drain line, you don’t want to skip this section!

All central air conditioning systems have an AC drainage line. Sometimes referred to as the condensate drain, AC drainage lines play a critical role in removing condensation from the evaporator coils.

You shouldn’t have much difficulty locating the drain line. Go outside and look for the drain line runoff, which is a PVC pipe located near the condenser unit of your air conditioner. Next, find the drain line access. It’s a capped PVC pipe located on the inside unit close to the air handler.

Once you’ve located both ends of the AC drain line, you can inspect it for clogs. Clog prevention helps your air conditioner run more efficiently. In some cases, a clog gets so bad it causes the AC to shut down.

Before we talk about cleaning the line, let’s take a minute to address clogs and how they form.

Why You Have a Clogged Condensate Drain Line

Most homeowners know all about clogs because they frequently deal with plumbing clogs. You’ll find all manner of gunk and debris when you troubleshoot a clog in your plumbing system.

Debris backup also causes clogs in your condensate drain line. It’s not the same combination of food particles, fats, oils, and grease (FOG), or your child’s toy truck. Instead, it’s leaves and other debris from your yard.

Condensation also contributes to clogged AC lines.

Condensation occurs when the evaporator coil wrings the moisture from the outside air as it comes into your AC unit. Condensation combines with dust particles and turns to a muddy mess. The mud washes down into the condensate drain line and, over time, forms a clog of debris.

Sometimes you can DIY, but for things other than simple clogs, it's best to call your HVAC specialist for repairs. Next, we'll look at the clues from the AC system that indicate you have a clogged drainage line.

Identifying a Clogged AC Drain Line

Many homeowners discover a clogged drain line when they perform a routine inspection. Since not everyone takes time to do that, you’ll want to get to know your cooling system so that you have an easier time troubleshooting.

Any of the following AC issues could indicate a clogged drain line:

Dripping or Standing Water

On a hot, humid day in Georgia, your air conditioner can pull in 50 gallons of water (or more) from your indoor air. Condensation first drips into a collection pan and then flows into the AC drain line. If you discover leaking water, investigate further for a blocked drain line.

An overflowing drip pan is usually a good sign you have a blockage.

Excessive Humidity

Aside from cooling your home, the air conditioner maintains safe, healthy humidity levels. If you notice more muggy air than usual inside your home, you could have a clog.

A call to your HVAC professional with a complaint about uncomfortably high humidity levels typically triggers an inspection of the drainage line. Humidity can result in mold or algae growth, ultimately causing a clogged line.

Cooling System Shutdown

Depending on the age of your system, you may have a sensor that shuts the system down if it detects a water backup. If your air conditioner abruptly powers down, look for a water leak. Then troubleshoot for a drainage line clog.

Once you determine you have a clogged line, you can clean it yourself. Next, we’ll show you how it’s done.

Gather the Right Tools

Like any other home maintenance project, it will be easier to clean the AC drain line if you have the right tools. We recommend the following:

  • Thin Brush
  • Funnel
  • Rags
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Wet/Dry Vac

If you’re like most homeowners, you likely have most or all of these tools. Now, you’re ready to tackle the cleaning job.

How to Clean AC Drain Lines

Once you read this section, you’ll see how easy it is to clean the AC drain line. Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of clearing the debris clog, make sure you turn off the power to your air conditioner!

If you haven’t already done so, find the condensate drain pan. As we mentioned earlier, standing water in the pan often indicates a clogged line. Pull the clog out with your wet/dry vac.

Next, clean the drain pan, either distilled vinegar, warm, soapy water, or a general household cleaning solution.

Your final step is using the AC drain line cleaner to flush the line. You can use the same solution used to clean the drain pan. After you flush the drainage line, let it sit for about 30 minutes and then run clear water through.

Can Your HVAC Company Help?

Even though the cleaning an AC line isn’t complicated, some homeowners don’t enjoy or feel comfortable working on their air conditioner.

Most professional routine HVAC maintenance includes inspection and cleaning (if necessary) of the AC drainage line. Why not let your technician get their hands dirty instead of yours?

Another reason you might consider calling a professional is when you’re not sure you even have a clogged drain line. Other issues can make your AC behave as if it has a dirty drainage line.

Save the aggravation and possibly, money by letting your HVAC company help you.

Need to Schedule AC Service?

Now that you know how to clean AC drain lines, you may feel ready to try your hand at the job. If not, we’re here to help!

Whether you need routine AC maintenance, or you have another HVAC issue, contact our team today. We’ll get you on the schedule for a service visit!

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